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Hacking: The Art of Exploitation, 2nd Edition by Jon Erickson

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Algorithmic Run Time

Algorithmic run time is a bit different from the run time of a program. Since an algorithm is simply an idea, there's no limit to the processing speed for evaluating the algorithm. This means that an expression of algorithmic run time in minutes or seconds is meaningless.

Without factors such as processor speed and architecture, the important unknown for an algorithm is input size. A sorting algorithm running on 1,000 elements will certainly take longer than the same sorting algorithm running on 10 elements. The input size is generally denoted by n, and each atomic step can be expressed as a number. The run time of a simple algorithm, such as the one that follows, can be expressed in terms of n.

for(i = 1 to n) { Do something; ...

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